Just in case you’ve been living under a rock the last few years, there was a Justice League movie released in theaters (remember those?) back 2017 that Zack Snyder began and Joss Whedon finished, but only after a ton of rewrites and reshoots. I’m one of the few critics who didn’t hate it (I actually liked it and geeked out in a few spots). The movie bombed, both commercially and critically, and nearly sunk Warner Bros’ cinematic universe with it.
Almost immediately, the nerd world started chanting to see the “Snyder Cut”. The world wanted to know what could have been as it was rumored the version we got was little more than a bastardization of what was always meant to be. After years of taking to the internet to make these demands, Warner Brothers finally threw up their hands and shouted “Fine! We’ll let Snyder finish the damn thing. But we don’t like it…and you’ll be sorry!”
Besides compiling the original footage, Snyder got some extra funds to shoot a few things he never got a chance to but decided it’d only be available through HBO Max – because WB didn’t think anyone would pay premium to see it in theaters (plus, you know, Covid). Behold: Zack Snyder’s Justice League is here and it’s fantastic.
This new version, which clocks in at over 4 (!) hours, starts at the end of the battle from 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where Superman (Henry Cavill) dies fighting Doomsday alongside Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Superman’s death cry is so loud that its literally heard all around the world! And that cry wakes up a Motherbox – a piece of alien technology that acts as a beacon for Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) to come and prepare Earth for annihilation from the despot Darkseid (Ray Porter).
With this established, the race is on to try and stop Steppenwolf from gathering the remaining 2 Motherboxes. To do that, Batman and Wonder Woman work to put together a team of heroes including Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) and plan to bring Superman back to life to aid in the ultimate showdown.
So, from that description, it sounds like it’s pretty much the same movie we already saw. And, prior to its release, many thought it would be the same movie with just a few extra scenes. Until it was announced the running time would be a whopping 4 hours long where the theatrical version was just a brisk 2 hours by comparison. What could Snyder possibly change to warrant being twice the runtime?!
Answer: a lot!
I’ll admit I enjoyed the 2017 theatrical version of Justice League…but I freakin’ loved Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It was a masterpiece. Comparing the two versions of this film is like trying to compare classic literature to CliffsNotes… only if the notes were written by someone who didn’t bother reading the classic literature or had any understanding of the themes and characters living within.
For starters, this Snyder Cut has origin stories for all the new heroes! Previously, we only had short scenes of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg using their powers, just enough to go “Oh, this is what this character can do. Cool.” The Snyder cut gives us what they can do, who they are as a person, how they got the way they are, what their belief system entails, and more! We got great set-ups and character arcs and actual emotion. We got to know and care about these heroes rather than just know they exist.
Even the bad guy got a back story and personality besides just being “I’m the bad guy! Grr!” We get to see actual motivation for Steppenwolf. His fear and jealousy of his higher-ups. His need to please and undo a stupid mistake he once made that he now feels bad about. We saw this whole hierarchy of villainy, teasing what Snyder had in mind to come in future films. This was much needed.
There were storylines and cameos and characters in this version that Whedon never bothered with – like Cyborg’s entire arc! The appearance of Martian Manhunter pulling some strings, Darkseid and Desaad and Granny Goodness and more. Wonder Woman was handled better, too. Aquaman’s icy exterior is chipped away more fluidly. The Flash became important. There were twists and reveals we didn’t see coming. There was heart with these heroes.
Granted, there was also a lot of extended fighting and death and ‘splosions… and that was surely welcome and made me geek harder. But the heart of what makes these characters so beloved and so interesting – that’s what was missing from Whedon’s version.
There are probably things in this new version that fans will complain about – Wonder Woman kills some people, Batman drops an F-bomb, Lois Lane… well, no, I’ll let you see that one for yourself. But fanboys are notorious complainers, and the internet is full of trolls. Don’t listen to these people who just want to bring the world down.
Watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League, especially if you were disappointed by the 2017 theatrical cut. It’s a master class in storytelling, one loaded with tons of action and geeky fan moments that honor these characters like they should have been honored in the first place. And gorgeous cinematography and effects. Sure, there are problems (some dialogue is eye-roll worthy, the final scenes tease at a sequel that will likely never happen), and you’ll probably need to hit pause once or twice to hit the restroom, but this vastly superior version is absolutely worth the price of admission.